FRANKFORT | Legislation passed during the 2012 General Assembly regular session will help keep patients and employees safer in Kentucky's emergency rooms.
Senate Bill 58 was signed into law April 11 by Gov. Steve Beshear and takes affect July 12.
State Rep. Mike Denham (D-Maysville) said the law was designed to protect emergency room staff and patients after an increase in assaults in emergency rooms, particularly in larger cities around the state.
According to the Legislative Research Commission website, SB 58 "amends Kentucky Revised Statute 431.005 relating to arrests to permit a peace officer to make an arrest or issue a citation for a violation of KRS 508.030, assault in the 4th degree, which is a misdemeanor, even when the officer did not view the commission of the offense if there is probable cause to make the arrest if the assault occurred in the emergency room of a hospital ... amend KRS 431.015 mandating the use of a citation in lieu of arrest to exempt an arrest for 4th degree assault in a hospital emergency room. "
Maysville Police Chief Ron Rice said there hasn't been a marked increase of assaults locally, but it does happen from time to time and usually involves a person under the influence of alcohol or illegal drug abuse.
Rice said his department issues citations as mandated in KRS 431.015, when incidents have occurred in the past.
A key point of the law is the police officer does not have to witness the assault to place an individual under arrest.
"From a hospital's perspective, we are always supportive of any law that protects our patients, their family and our staff from any type of violence," said Robert Parker, CEO at Meadowview Regional Medical Center.
Mary Bauer, president of the Kentucky State Emergency Nurses Association attended a ceremonial signing of the law with Beshear on Monday.
“Assaults in emergency departments are dangerous not just for the health care professionals who work in the department, but they also threaten the health and safety of our patients,” said Bauer.“It’s crucial that we treat assaults as the serious crimes that they are and that the penalties for these crimes are commensurate with the danger they pose. Today, with the signing of this law, we are taking another step toward keeping emergency departments, our colleagues and our patients safe. We particularly want to thank ENA member Linda Robinson RN, CEN, CFN for her efforts to promote and get this bill passed and Senator John Schickel for his sponsorship on this issue."
The bill passed both the House and Senate by unanimous votes and was supported by the National ENA, Kentucky State ENA, The Kentucky Police Chief’s Association, The Kentucky Hospital Association, The Kentucky American College of Emergency Physicians, and nurses across the state.